CFO, are you thinking of becoming a CEO?


In France, only 51% of CFOs think that becoming CEO is a realistic option.

What holds them back the most :

  • The lack of experience in marketing or technical functions;
  • The technical or even technocratic image they have of themselves;
  • More surprisingly, the lack of experience in team management.

And yet, 84% of headhunters think that this is a very realistic option.

  • This makes CFOs credible candidates for the CEO role:
  • l the ability to think both business and strategy ;
  • l openness to business;
  • l leadership.

You are a CFO. Are you thinking of taking up the role of a CEO?


The myth: CFOs are far too technocratic to become CEOs

If you are a CFO, despite your real talents, you may be suspected of making your decisions solely on the basis of numbers and analysis. One might even think:

  • that you have difficulty understanding the global nature of the company;
  • that you have difficulty adapting to a variety of audiences
  • that you have trouble dealing with uncertainty or partial information
  • that you are risk averse, etc.

What do you think for yourself?

One might also say that a Marketing or Sales Director cannot become a CEO because he or she is going to develop at any cost without paying attention to the profitability.

One could also say that an Operations Director or a General Manager are disqualified because they are only interested in execution and not in strategy.

In other words, only a CEO could succeed a CEO….

The reality: Many CFOs are natural candidates for the CEO position

The reality is that CFOs can become CEOs if they put their minds to it and if they are willing to put their energy where it is needed. Hence the importance of knowing oneself well and knowing where one wants to express one’s credibility.

And to quote some famous examples of CFOs who became CEOs, there are of course the famous examples :

  • Clotilde Delbos, former CFO and then deputy CEO of Renault Group and CEO of Mobilize,
  • Henri Giscard d’Estaing at Club Med,
  • Jose Luis Duran, CFO who became Chairman of the Board of Directors of Carrefour and then of Devanlay,
  • Jean-Marc Espalioux, who came from CGE where he was CFO to become CEO of Accor.

But they are not alone: Fabien Lorant, former CFO France of Carestream Health, was promoted to President France and then Europe, Henri Brosse, former CFO of Porcher Industries became CEO of the company in early 2012.

Why CFOs are “eligible”

  • They work with the board of directors and investors, understand their views and can communicate with them.
  • Increasingly “business partners”, they have a precise vision of each area of the company, both historically and in terms of forecasts. They must master the execution processes.
  • They are the guardians of numbers and know the reality of the business, the opportunities and the risks.
  • They participate in the company’s strategy and help shape its future.
  • They play an important role in mergers and acquisitions and guide decisions in this area.
  • In direct link with the CIO/CTO, they play a fundamental role in the digital evolution of the company.

How do you qualify your current role in the Management Team?


No manager, no matter how well-rounded, has all the keys to running a company; no one can invent skills they do not have!

If you are thinking of becoming a CEO:

  • make your progression part of your thought process ;
  • know the responsibilities of a CEO and accept them;
  • know that you don’t know everything and open up to what you don’t know but accept that you won’t know it as well as others;
  • know how to get things done rather than do things (know how to attract and optimize the talents of others in addition to your own).

What kind of a CFO are you?

Your orientation as a CFO helps you imagine the kind of CEO you can become.

As a CFO:

  • Are you outward looking with an offensive view of the company’s valuation, selling future growth and an equity story?
  • Are you inward looking with a defensive view, optimizing operations, and selling business reliability and risk insurance?
  • Are you both?

How does your relationship with your CEO and the Management Team function?

  • Who creates value, who organizes execution?
  • Who ensures that the business is scalable?
  • How do you create customer focus, employee experience and growth, diversity and corporate responsibility together?
  • Who is the guardian of corporate governance?
  • How is the cohesiveness of the Management Team achieved, while ensuring diversity of viewpoints?

How will you re-create this equiation with your own Management Team?

What is the best environment for you to grow as a CEO?

  • What kind of company, at what stage of evolution?
  • A stable company, one that is going through turbulence, in hyper-growth, in crisis or in turnaround?
  • With what type of shareholders: family, financial, public?
  • What talents do you want to cultivate?

“If you dip the stick in the swamp, it does not become a crocodile” – African proverb.

  • What are your talents, your ways of doing things that you always go back to and that differentiate you from others?
  • When you project yourself into the role of CEO, what will your talents bring to a business?
  • What is the story you are looking for, where your talents are expressed and you have the right people around you to succeed?
  • How do you organize yourself to get there?


Over the past 3 years, several dozen business leaders have asked me to help them win the challenge of professional development.

More than a coach and more than a consultant, I help you define the path of change that suits you best, starting from what you are today.

We work as a team to reach your goals, with a method adapted to each person and tools built to measure.

For you, it’s not just a matter of changing your path or job, but also of managing complex risks. We integrate this complexity into your choices.

The effectiveness of our work is measured by the concrete results you get.

If necessary, I will coach you to bring your project to market and open up my extensive network of international contacts.

To go further, contact me here